Black History Month · HBCU News

Black History Month Spotlight: Dr. Freddie Hartfield ’50, Arkansas AM&N/University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Graduate and Professor

HCF and its Kwesi Ronald Harris Division of Historical Records commemorates Black History Month remembering those important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. During Black History Month, HCF will focus on students and alumni of HBCUs, and individuals who made or are making history in the African-American community.

Dr. Freddie Hartfield, who holds the distinction of being the longest-serving tenured professor in the history of Arkansas AM&N/UAPB for his service for more than 50 years. He was raised in Elaine, Arkansas, a small town located in Phillips County. His mother died during childbirth and his great-grandmother, Sarah Hartfield, raise him. Years later, tough times with little money and sometimes little shelter, led an 11-year-old Hartfield and Sarah Hartfield (who was 80-years-old by then) to work in the cotton fields, making 75 cents per hundred a day. During the six-month off-season, he attended Elaine High School seven miles from home walking both ways.

Prof. Cleo Frye, a vocational teacher, and his wife, Velma “Red” Frye of Elaine successfully convinced Sarah Hartfield that Freddie Hartfield should attend J.C. Corbin High School in Pine Bluff to further his education. Frye brought young Hartfield to Lewis Hall and left him there, but he had no money for school or food. At the time, Dr. John Brown Watson was the school president. Dr. L.A. Davis, Sr., was an English teacher then and worked in the admissions office. Davis Sr. helped Hartfield by getting him into and remaining at the school by giving him a job to pay for tuition. After Hartfield graduated from J.C. Corbin High School, be began working at the Pine Bluff Arsenal and attending AM&N College. For four years, he worked eight hours a day, making 51 cents an hour, moving cluster bombs. Each time he was paid, he kept only the money he needed for transportation and food and sent the rest back home.

Hartfield graduated from Arkansas AM&N College in 1950 with a Bachelor’s degree in agriculture. Consequently, he was 23-years-old when he began agriculture at AM&N. After he discovered his passion for mathematics, Hartfield received a master’s degree in mathematics education in 1957 from the University of Arkansas and a Ph.D. in mathematics education from Kansas State University. Although he’s proud of his educational accomplishments, Hartfield is even prouder of his family. He’s been married for more than 73 years to Verna Mae Hartfield.

Until May 2014, Hartfield, mathematics professor extraordinaire, had become a well-established figure at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Many UAPB alumni from across the nation boast that Hartfield taught them mathematics or at least that he was their instructor. Hartfield came to the institution on June 2, 1941, when he enrolled in J.C. Corbin High School at the age of 16, he was 90 years old when he retired.

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